Oil on canvas; H 24 in. x W 20 in. • H 61, W 50.8 cm. Independence National Historical Park, Portrait Collection (Second Bank of the United States), Philadelphia, PA.
Alexander Hamilton, 1790—95
I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. This, with its echo of the Declaration (
self-evident) was Jefferson at his most terse. Except for the phrase
in usufruct — a legalism meaning the right to use property for a certain time — Jefferson’s words could be chiseled in stone, or shouted on the hustings.